Courageous or Brave?

Our family recently had an incredible experience white-water rafting on the Ocoee River.  I love what the photographer managed to capture in this photo….a moment of pure exhilaration and fun for each of us!  When I look at myself in this picture, I see a woman who looks brave and loves adventure.  But, the thing about photos is that they only capture a moment.  This photo doesn’t tell you that, 90 minutes earlier, I was in full blown panic. 

The morning started out just fine.  We arrived at the outfitter station on time and made sure all of our waivers were signed. We then moved outside to collect our rafting gear and to hear the obligatory “safety” meeting before we left.

That’s when the trouble started….

We learned, among other things, how not to drown, what to do if we fell out, what to do if the boat flipped and how to handle ourselves if caught in a current or, worse, caught in a “washing machine” rapid.  

We also learned how to pull crew members, who fell out, back into the raft. This was communicated in a way that implied that this skill would most definitely be needed. 

No-one around me appeared concerned.

I, on the other hand, was terrified.  

To add to my fears, I suddenly remembered a couple of very scary white-water stories I had heard from family members. These stories included near-death experiences, rafters being pulled into the boat unresponsive and in shock, along with stories of bruised and battered bodies that took weeks to heal. 

By the time we got on the bus to head up river, I was so scared that I was experiencing heart palpitations.  My husband asked what was wrong.  I confessed my fear and stated that I thought I would just skip the trip.  He tried to talk me down, but my fears would not subside.

When we arrived at the “put-in” location, I still wasn’t sure what to do so I sought out our guide.  I shared that, while my family was super excited about all of us rafting together, I was scared to death and unsure that I would even go.  He offered me a bit of assurance about the trip and, while my heart was still pounding with fear, I made the decision to go so that I could share this experience with my family.

By the time this picture was taken, we had maneuvered through a few rapids and I was truly enjoying the journey.  I was so thankful I had chosen to take this adventure in spite of my fears!

The whole experience reminded me of God’s call for me (for us) to be courageous spiritually.  I find it interesting that we are called to be courageous, not brave.  These words, that we so often use interchangeably, actually imply things that are quite different.

Bravery is an ability to confront danger and/or pain without experiencing fear.  It implies a feeling of someone who is bold and daring.  A brave person may feel or appear larger than his circumstances even when he is not. 

But, courage is different.  Courage is an ability to confront danger and/or pain in spite of fear.  The courageous person takes action even though he is scared and feels small. A courageous person acts, not because he feels capable, but because of a belief that the struggle is worth it. 

So, when God calls us to be courageous as we live for Him, we have a choice.  We can give in to the fear that we may naturally feel.  Or, we can make a willful decision to act in spite of our feelings because we have faith that whatever God has called us to is worth it. 

So my prayer today is rooted in these words that Paul penned to the Corinthian church….

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Lord, would you strengthen my faith today? Help me to stand firm in you and help me to do all that you have called me to do.  Would you equip me to be strong and courageous in spite of my fears and inabilities? I believe that your Kingdom is worth the struggle. And, Lord, would you give me the grace to do everything with love?

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